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On Syria, Ban Dismayed at Iran as SNC Calls Him "Immoral," Whither the Kurds?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 20 -- Iranian foreign ministry comments about Syria have left UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "dismayed," Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky announced at 12:30 pm on January 20.

   Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban is equally dismayed at the Syrian National Coalition's spokesperson calling Ban's bait and switch invite "immoral, even in politics."  Nesirky declined to specifically express dismay at this comment, only saying that a number of comments have been disappointing.  "This one?" Nesirky would not answer.

  Given the SNC's 2 pm ultimatum on Ban to disinvite Iran, Inner City Press asked Nesirky if the invitation to the SNC was the only one to non-Assad Syrians, or if for example Kurds could be invited. Nesirky said one unified delegation. Hardly -- 44 members of the SNC already dropped out before the vote to attend. What would the vote count be now?

Before the Middle East meeting of the UN Security Council on January 20, the Permanent Representatives of France, the UK and Russia spoke to the press about Iran being invited to the Syria talks beginning in Montreux January 22.

  Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, which Bashar Assad called a proxy state of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said the ball is in the court of Iran, to explicitly accept Geneva I. The UK's Mark Lyall Grant said the UK position is that Iran must clarify, publicly, that it accepts Geneva I.

  Others say why should Iran accept a communique of Geneva I to which it was not invited. Others say Iran does in its way accept the communique - it just interprets it differently.

  Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin said "of course" the US had been consulted before Iran was invited. If the SNC now does not attend, Churkin said, it would be a "big mistake."

   Ban Ki-moon went into the Security Council suite with a big entourage; there was a time he was not on UNTV in the chamber. Inner City Press can report that UNTV technicians were asked to pipe in a feed of the public meeting into a side room. There was talk of Ban's selective meetings, using the code name EU P2.

  Meanwhile the Istanbul based Syrian National Coalition has set a deadline of 2 pm in New York on January 20 for the invitation to be rescinded.

  Soner Ahmed, an SNC spokesman, said Ban "waited to invite Iran until after the coalition’s decision to attend the conference. That is immoral, even in politics."

    Ban previously met with the SNC's Ahmad al Jarba in Ban's UN provided residence; when the Free UN Coalition for Access asked why it had not been on his schedule, the meeting was called personal.  Now, things have really gotten personal.

  Among UNanswered questions is whether the SNC would or would have brought any Kurdish representatives, and why or whether the Kurds will not now be invited.

  Saudi Arabia shot back at the invitation of Iran by saying they should not attend because it "has military forces in Syria." But doesn't Uganda have fighting forces in South Sudan, while being a member of "mediator" IGAD? UN-consistency.

   Ban made his Iran invitation announcement in a hastily thrown together press conference held Sunday evening in an nearly empty UN building, on barely an hour's notice.

Nevertheless, Ban's spokesperson automatically gave the first question to the United Nations Correspondents Association, a partisan group which for example held a faux "UN briefing" for Ahmad al Jarba of the Turkey-based Syrian Coalition. Click here for Inner City Press story on that.

Ban Ki-moon dodged and did not answer on the weakness of Jarba's Coalition, from which over 40 members decided not to attend the vote approving attended at the talks in Switzerland. Nor until the end of this press conference did Ban mention the inclusion of women. Has he asked Jarba about that?

  Ban said he spoke with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, who "committed to play a constructive and positive role." Ban repeated this line when asked about the litmus test of accepting that Geneva II is about Geneva I which was about "establishing a transitional governing body with full executive powers" -- on mutual consent, whatever that means.

  Ban also announced supplemental invitations to Montreux for, among others, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands and, yes, South Korea.

  It was at 4:21 pm that the UN sent out an email that Ban would appear for a "brief and important statement" in the UN at 5:30 pm. When that time arrived, the so-called UNCA chair (or "Holy Seat") on which the UN has affixed a metal tag was filled -- and from that seat a complaint was made to try to get another correspondent moved.

  UNCA's president Pamela Falk of CBS was not there; nor was her first vice president, who nonetheless was heard to call into the room. It is time to end the practice of the UN automatically giving the first question to UNCA - a group of which executive committee members tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN (and to get leaked documents removed from Google's search under a specious DMCA filing by Reuters' bureau chief) and which has not reformed in any way since then.

The Free UN Coalition for Access additionally asks why this announcement was made this way. There is more and more staging at the UN, faux Q&A and UNTV footage put out hoping it will be used as B roll. The UN should be more transparent, less of a scam. We'll have more on this.


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